Reading: Colossians 3:1-17
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)
The old me is dead. I “died with Christ” (Colossians 2:20), and then three days later, I was “raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). This happened at a specific moment in history nearly 2,000 years ago, but I got to “share in it” when I made my own personal decision to accept Jesus as my Lord, and be baptised. With that burial and resurrection, I became a brand new person, a “new creation”. Home is no longer where it was. My new permanent address is now “hidden with Christ in God”.
But with this monumental shift in the spiritual realm comes the realisation that all my old settings need to be re calibrated – the way I think, the way I respond, my priorities, my focus, the things I pursue – everything.
Calibrate: Correlate the readings (of an instrument) with those of a standard in order to check the instrument's accuracy; adjust to take external factors into account; carefully assess, set or adjust.
It's still happening, this Re-calibration. In fact, the more time goes by, the more I discover in my heart and mind that doesn't correlate with those of the 'Standard'. As I read my Bible, I keep becoming aware of things in me that don't line up with the way that Jesus is, or his expectations of me.
Yet I don't feel guilt. Rather I feel hunger. I find that I am wearing some old attitude that I suddenly, desperately want to get rid of. I see a standard of faith that I fall woefully short of, and I desperately want my faith to grow to meet that new standard. I discover once again that God desires intimacy with me, and I long to go deeper in my relationship with him.
What a wonderful privilege to have the Spirit of God doing this work in me. He really is re-calibrating me. It's as I turn my heart and my thoughts toward him that he truly can have full reign to do his work. Coming before him as I read my Bible, setting aside time to walk and talk with him, and choosing in all my decisions to honour my declared devotion to him – these things open the way for God to reset and restore everything in my life that needs putting right. How good is that!
Holy Spirit, I offer myself into your hands, and say, “Have your way.” Please re-calibrate me so that I might be like Jesus. I want to love like him, and be pure in every thought and motivation. Jesus, I thank you that my future is now in your hands, and for the privilege of being able to walk with you now, and every day. Come, Lord Jesus!
Reading: Mark 7-9
…on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:34-37
On learning that his disciples were discussing who was the greatest among them, it's interesting that Jesus doesn't rebuke them for this. Rather he explains to them what constitutes greatness in the kingdom of God, and it is clearly not what they were thinking. Greatness in the Kingdom allows no room for pride; rather, it stems from humility. It takes the opportunity to serve and delights in allowing others to go first. It is not self-promoting, but instead leaves God to promote as he sees fit. It seeks not the adoration of men, but rather, the approval of God.
Some of the greatest people in the Kingdom of God may be those whose deeds are unknown by the world, but, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Matthew 10:26
I enjoy being recognised for doing something well. But being able to enjoy the moment with my Father in heaven, and then “chew the fat” with him afterwards – that is a very great privilege. Enjoying the warmth of his approval frees me from the need to have the approval and affirmation of others. To please him in everything I do, knowing that he sees all I do, and knows what is in my heart – this should be my number one priority. Whatever job he has for me is the job I will put my heart and soul into, whether that job be great or small.
Thank you Jesus for your wonderful example. Help me to delight in serving others, and in knowing that as I serve, I am bringing pleasure to you, my King. I look forward to the reward you have for me. My life is in your hands.
Yes, the title of this SOAP was rather grandiose, wasn't it! “Simon the Great!” I had a good laugh with God about this one. Have you tried using SOAP in your own times with God? It's a great way to listen to God as you read his Word. You can learn more about SOAP here: What is SOAP?
Reading: Luke 5:1-16
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:12-13 (NIV)
The law of Moses contained various rules and regulations about skin diseases, and how these affected a person's “cleanness”. (See Leviticus 13). Being ceremonially unclean meant a person could neither touch nor be touched by another person, or that person would also become unclean. Neither could they “touch” God, because nothing unholy can stand in the presence of our holy God. Effectively, to be unclean meant to be cut off.
The picture was really a representation of the effect of sin in my life: it makes me unclean, and it cuts me off from the presence of God. Like an infectious disease, sin taints and infects everything it comes into contact with.
But in this story of the man with leprosy, something wonderful happens. Everything gets reversed! Jesus touches the man (that would have been a surprise in itself), but his holiness is not tainted. And instead of the unclean man making Jesus unclean, he himself is made clean by Jesus! Holiness has come, and the power of his uncleanness has been broken.
No longer is sin flowing out from me and causing damage. Instead, grace is flowing into me bringing holiness and restoration. In fact, everything is flowing in a new direction, and all because Jesus has reached out and touched me. The power of my uncleanness has been broken. Instead of being cut off, I am free now to enter and enjoy the very presence of God. I need to do this! I need every day to open my life to him to receive all that he has for me.
I am also free to reach out and touch others! God's grace flows not just to me but also through me. I need to open the penstocks and freely share with others the goodness that is flowing my way. The more that flows through, the more capacity I will develop to be able to share God's grace.
Jesus, thank you for your incredible gift. Thank you that everything now is flowing in a new direction – from you to me to others. Help me to know more of your grace, and to share it generously with those you bring across my path.
Reading: Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 10
The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. Leviticus 16:2 (NIV)
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body… …let us draw near to God…” Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV)
What a contrast between Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 10. It's so inspiring to read the two chapters side by side. Both highlight the holiness of our God, and the perils of approaching him in an unholy state. Aaron could enter the Most Holy Place just once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when sacrifices of bulls and goats were made, and strict protocol needed to be followed.
But that day, which continued to come around year after year, was just a shadow of a day that was to come. On the real Day of Atonement, my unholiness was dealt with once and for all. No longer would God warn me against entering his holy Presence, lest I die.
Now, a new and living way had been opened up “through the curtain”, so that not just the high priest, but every man, woman and child – including me – could enter freely into the very Presence of God, the Most Holy Place. It's what God wants for me, and Jesus has made it possible, “…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
What amazing words those are: I have been “made perfect forever”. That truth needs to permeate my entire being:
I have been made perfect forever…
God is perfecting holiness in me…
How can I now entertain fear or feelings of inadequacy? How can I remain conceited or self-righteous? I can't. But what I can do is embrace the wholeness and confidence that true holiness brings. I am acceptable! I can come into the very presence of our holy God without shame, not as one who is inadequate, but with joy, as one who has been made perfect forever!
This makes me feel so differently about myself. In the way I relate to other people, it gives me confidence and opens the way for love. And in the way I relate to God, it invites a relationship that is almost indescribable. Jesus has changed everything! Closeness with God is now attainable, and I can have it!
Thank you Lord Jesus for your indescribable gift. I accept! Please open my eyes to see you more clearly and know you more closely. I want to know more of your holiness. Please remove from me all that is false, and may the truth that is found in Jesus permeate every part of me, to the very core of my being.
“…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14
Reading: Psalm 106-111
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:10 (NIV)
From the moment I submit myself to God, he begins to renew and restore me. I begin to change! I start to understand things the way that God understands them. I start to think the way that God thinks. Wrong thinking makes way for truth as my mind is renewed, and my character becomes Christ-like. I'm not becoming more intelligent – I'm becoming wise.
In many ways, wisdom is akin to righteousness. It is thinking and behaving just as God intends. It's an inner condition that brings outer harmony. When wisdom and righteousness abound, everything works as designed and things are as they should be. There is wholeness and there is holiness. But wisdom isn't complete in me the moment I commit my life to God – the fear of the Lord is just “the beginning of wisdom”. Rather, it's the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in my life that brings about this wonderful transformation.
The more open communication there can be between God and me, the more opportunity there will be for my heart and mind to be transformed and for wisdom to grow. I can seek an audience with God! I can open my heart to God, inviting him to instruct me and counsel me (see Psalm 32:8). Though it seems unbelievable, I can even ask God to open his heart to me, that I might see and understand his thoughts and his ways.
Intimacy = “into me see”. I need to seek this intimacy with God not just as I read his Word, or spend focused time in prayer or worship, but also in the midst of every day, in all the goings-on of my life – a never ending conversation of love and transformation.
Thank you Father that your good pleasure is to pour out your love and grace upon me. I welcome you, and ask that as you perfect holiness in me, you will adorn me not just with holiness but also with wisdom.
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:1-6 (NIV)
For a wonderful read about the pursuit of wisdom, see Job 28.
See also, The Bible: Where Do I Start?
Reading: Exodus 29-30
Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.
Then use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, the table and all its articles, the lamp stand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand.
You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. Exodus 30:25-29 (NIV)
Everything in the Tent of Meeting had an aroma, a unique aroma that was not allowed to be used anywhere else. The recipe was given directly by God, and it was to be considered holy.
I wonder what it would have been like to be the perfumer, the man who carefully followed the recipe from God to prepare this sacred anointing oil, the “aroma of God”. How careful he must have been, how diligent to ensure that all was done according to God's prescription. Though he wasn't a priest, he enjoyed an immense privilege, and was one of the team of people God chose to help represent his presence in a physical tangible way, in what people could see, hear, smell, touch and even taste.
God still chooses people – men, women and children, to represent himself to mankind. God gives us the privilege of ushering others into his presence in many different ways, often according to the gifts he has given us, our personality, or the situation in which he has placed us. More than that, we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the aroma of Christ is in us.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 .
Sharing God with others, and ushering them into his presence in whatever ways I can is worthy of my time, my careful thought, and my best efforts. These are my offering and my privilege.
Jesus, please cleanse me of anything that would distract from the purity of your aroma in me. As one who is made holy, may I be a workman who is approved by you and available for any task that you would have me do.
Reading: Exodus 34
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Exodus 34:29-31 (NIV)
“…his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” How awesome that when Moses was in the presence of God, his very physical appearance changed. He absorbed something of God's glory and majesty that could still be seen on his face after he had left God's presence, and to such a degree that the Israelites were afraid of him. How interesting that while Moses longed for the Presence of God, the majority of the people were afraid of it.
I want my face to be radiant because I have spoken with God. The time I spend “sneaking off with God” is my time to come into his presence and speak with him – to express openly what is in my heart, and also to seek his voice, to allow him to openly express to me what is in his heart.
Father, please transform me. As I come into your presence, please burn off the dross that you find, and make me radiant. I would love for others to see you and find you and know you more closely as a result of being with me. As I enjoy your presence in my life, will you draw others into your presence, and help me to bring people with me into that very privileged place.
See also: Meant For His Presence
Reading: Galatians 5:16-26
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Fruit doesn't appear instantly like gifts do. It grows. Most fruit starts out as a bud which soon opens into a pretty flower. The flower is only temporary though, and once pollinated, its petals fall and its base begins to swell and grow until eventually it becomes a fully grown fruit. Even then the fruit has to ripen before it is perfect and ready to consume.
The work of the Holy Spirit in my life is the same. The fruit is really his fruit, but I get to bear it and thereby share in the blessing of that fruit. This requires my full cooperation, and a willingness to submit to the Spirit and join with him in his work. Much fruit may be born along the way as I walk with him, but the choicest fruit will be that which has had a lifetime to mature and ripen, perfected perhaps by suffering, and ultimately bringing glory to God through Jesus whose perfect sacrifice made it all possible.
My father died this week at the age of 85. As a boy he committed his life to Jesus, and he loved and served God unswervingly all his life. Every year when I was growing up, he used to buy boxes and boxes of fresh fruit in season – apricots, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines and more. When the fruit was ripe to perfection, he would preserve it in big jars and fill our cupboards with fruit for the year ahead.
On reflection, it seems to me that his life too was characterised by fruit, of two types. The first was fruit born by him as he faithfully used his gifts and his time to serve and bless others in all sorts of ways. The second was fruit born in him, those 'character' fruit described in Galatians 5:22 which over the course of his life developed and matured, and were finally ripened to near perfection.
Perhaps the two types of fruit are one and the same, with the former being simply the natural expression of the latter. Both are evidence of a life well spent – a life committed to Jesus and yielded to the Spirit – and the fruit of his life will be enjoyed forever.
Thank you Lord Jesus for the kindness and love that you have shown to my family. I thank you for the life of my father, and for the legacy that he has passed down to his children. May good fruit continue to fill our cupboards and overflow in expressions of thankfulness and praise to you.
Reading: Exodus 39:1-32
The craftsmen made beautiful sacred garments of blue, purple, and scarlet cloth—clothing for Aaron to wear while ministering in the Holy Place, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Exodus 39:1 (NLT)
Nothing unholy can stand in the presence of our holy God. In order to serve in God's presence, Aaron needed to be made holy; “sanctified” or set apart for holy service. Sacrifices needed to be made on his behalf. Not only that, Aaron's garments needed to be made holy by the appropriate ceremony and sacrifice. In keeping with that need for holiness, the garments were crafted from the finest fabric, colourful and richly adorned to reflect the beauty that holiness brings.
I too need to be adorned in holiness if am to enter the presence of my holy God. My old clothes are spoiled by sin and shame. Fortunately, I have some new ones! I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness. Isaiah 61:10
My new clothes come to me at great price. For Jesus, who bought them for me, was stripped of his at the cross, his garments of holiness replaced by my filthy rags in the sight of both God and man, so that I might be dressed and ready to be welcomed into the very presence of God.
I find it interesting that although his seamless “woven in one piece” undergarment was stripped from him, it was considered too valuable to be cut in pieces: “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” John 19:24a In the same way, Jesus' own holiness was not blemished or tainted at the cross. Rather, it became a precious gift, one that has somehow made its way into my hands, and into the hands of all who would humble themselves to receive it.
Thank you Jesus for your incredible gift of holiness, for these precious clothes which now adorn me and qualify me to come into the presence of God my Father. Help me Jesus to wear them as they should be worn, to live in holiness and to carry myself in such a way that the giver of that holiness is recognised, praised and acknowledged as the source of everything that is holy and good.
Reading: Psalm 93
Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord. Psalm 93:5 (NIV)
To adorn: To make more beautiful or attractive.
There is great beauty in holiness. At the time this psalm was written, the temple was God's house, the place where he dwelt. It was characterised and made more beautiful not by its ornate design or intricate craftsmanship, but by holiness, and this by virtue of the fact that God dwelt there.
Because God is holy, any place where he dwells is also made holy. I too have been made holy: “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10 Since God's Spirit of Holiness is living in me, I have effectively become God's house.
So if I am God's house, Psalm 93:5 takes on new meaning! “Holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord.” I have been adorned with holiness! I have been made “beautiful and attractive” through the sacrifice Jesus made for me. He has “…bestowed on [me] a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. I will be called [an] oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.” Isaiah 61:3-4
Guilt and shame have no place in my life any more! I have been made holy! My sins are forgotten, and God's perfect law is in my heart and written on my mind. I can walk in freedom and with great joy, lead by the Spirit and living a life characterised by goodness and fruitfulness. And “since I have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,” I can every day “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…” Hebrews 10:19, 22a Yippee!!!
Thank you, Lord Jesus that because of your sacrifice, I have been made perfect forever. I choose to live a life of holiness! Holy Spirit please fill me and lead me, and may my life be forever devoted to the display of your splendour.